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Jul 9, 2007 02:05 PM

Do you trust your finger?

...or do you use a meat thermometer to test the done-ness of a piece of meat? I haven't learned to trust the finger/pressure test yet so if it's a large piece of meat I generally use a meat thermometer. (I don't always trust it though.) I will admit that when pressed for time I will just cut open one of the steaks/chops/patties to assess done-ness. I know, this is wrong wrong wrong because all of the juices escape.

What are your meat-testing tips?

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  1. the palm test, my friend

    from an article on

    - For a rare steak: Squeeze the pad at the base of your thumb. It should feel spongy and offer very little resistance.

    - For a medium steak: Press on the middle of the palm of your outstretched hand. It should feel firm and snap back quickly.

    - For a well-done steak: Squeeze the base off your small finger. It should feel very firm, with almost no give. However, Morton's chefs strongly advise against cooking beyond medium, noting that doing so is likely to dry out the meat and rob it of its flavor and tenderness.

    1. single person steak, the finger and the gut feeling has been a good indicator after 30+ years of practice. For thicker cuts a thermometer in the side and leave it there. Usually within 10 degrees from the jfood belly feel, so not on the grill very ling.

      1. I'll cut into chicken on occasion, but not a burger or steak. Nor will I impale them with a thermometer. Oh no. I don't usually roast large pieces of meat, but if I do I'll use a thermometer. The center is simply too deep!

        1. Why is that wrong wrong wrong? Just be sure to have one extra serving that you can slice into (and snack on while you're pulling the rest of the meal together, heh!). When it's "done," you can serve up the rest unscathed and no one has to know your dirty little secret!

          8 Replies
          1. re: foodstorm

            It is wrong, wrong, wrong because the meat has not had a chance to rest yet. While the meat is cooking the juices tend to come to the surface. If you cut into it while it is cooking (or immediately as you remove it from the heat source) all of the juice will run out of the meat. Without the juice the meat will overcook itself - nothing instantly stops cooking when it it removed from the heat source - carry over cooking.
            If you give the meat a chance to rest - the juices will even out and keep everything moist flavorful and tender.

            Trust the finger. Besides you can always cook something longer, but you can not un-cook it.

            1. re: cheftori

              I was being facetious, or trying to, but oh well.

              1. re: foodstorm

                I agree with you foodstorm; at least during the learning process of trusting the finger (who cares if the juices run out of your test piece of chicken). While practicing for the finger squeeze method I will give it a squeeze with my finger, remember what it felt like, then cut that test piece open and see if I was right about it's doneness! Take a bite to see about salt/spices and save the rest for a shredded chicken salad for lunch the next day. Eventually I won't have to cut into it to see.

                1. re: Lemonii

                  actually the finger test is for steaks & chops, not poultry--

                  1. re: soupkitten

                    Darn, I don't really eat red meat.... I need a method for chicken! Especially fried chicken. I never know when that is done!

                    1. re: Lemonii

                      as RGC1982 says below, you can jiggle the leg on a whole chicken-- if it moves easily it is done. with cut up chicken i can usually eyeball it well by the weight of the chicken (whole breasts take longer etc), but i wouldn't hesitate to do the pink juice test if we're talking underdone poultry

                      1. re: Lemonii

                        I don't think the "don't cut" rule applies to chicken, or at least I've never noticed any loss of juiciness when I cut into a piece to see if it's done at the bone. Of course I check the larger pieces that way, always the thigh; if it's done, everything's done.

                        I've only recently begun using the finger method, because I've only recently begun grilling steaks regularly. I was astonished at how immediately intuitive it was.

                    2. re: Lemonii

                      Well thanks, but I really was kind of joking. Anyone remember that old beef commercial from, I dunno, the '80s maybe, with James Garner (I think) grilling up a whole load o' steaks, and he keeps cutting little chunks off of the "extra" one until the steaks are "perfect" by which time he has eaten all the "evidence"? I think it was a shameless ploy to get people to buy one extra cut of meat rather that a legitimate cooking method.

                  1. re: beevod

                    Me too, but only for steaks/thin cuts. For thicker pieces/roasts, I always use a thermometer.